World News

Israel says U.N. grants Hamas-linked group NGO status

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Israel on Monday accused a U.N. committee that oversees non-governmental organizations of granting U.N accreditation to an association that it said promotes “anti-Israel propaganda in Europe” and is linked to the militant Palestinian group Hamas.

Israel’s mission to the United Nations issued a statement

condemning the decision, by the 19-member U.N. Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations, to approve the application of the Palestinian Return Center (PRC), an organization based in Britain. The PRC denied having ties to Hamas and accused Israel of trying to “distort and mislead the committee member states.”

The Israeli statement said it banned the PRC in 2010 because of its ties to Hamas, labeling it “an organizational and a coordinating wing of Hamas in Europe” with members that include senior Hamas officials.

“Until today, the U.N. has given Hamas discounts and let it strengthen its activities,” Israel’s U.N. ambassador, Ron Prosor, said in the statement. “Now, the U.N. went one step further, and gave Hamas a welcoming celebration at its main entrance, allowing it to be a full participant.”

Some 12 countries voted in favor, including Iran, Pakistan, Sudan, Turkey, Venezuela, China and Cuba, while three voted against - the United States, Uruguay and Israel. India, Russia and Greece abstained, and Burundi was absent.

PRC described Israel’s allegations as baseless.

“PRC will hand a letter of protest to the United Nations ... against the false allegations circulated by Israel,” the group said on its website, adding that it was “not affiliated to any Palestinian party including Hamas.”

It added that PRC was “independent and dedicated to serve the cause of Palestinian refugees and their right of return.”

Official U.N. status as an NGO gives groups access to U.N. premises and opportunities to attend or observe many events and conferences at United Nations sites around the world.

Neither the British nor U.S. missions to the United Nations had an immediate response to Reuters requests for comment on the vote or the Israeli announcement. A U.N. spokesman said it would be up to member states to comment since it was their decision.

The United States and European Union have designated Hamas a terrorist organization.

Since Hamas, and not the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, is the de facto governing authority in the Gaza Strip, the United Nations maintains limited contact with it in terms of aid delivery, education and other activities.

The United Nations’ principal Palestinian interlocutor is the Palestinian Authority, which controls the West Bank.

Additional reporting by Nidal Al Mughrabi in Gaza; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Christian Plumb